By Murray Silby
Abraham Ankers and Angela Foley have won the top honours at this year’s NT Thunder Club Champions Awards being presented in front of 200 people in Darwin on Friday night.
Ankers improved on his runner-up finish last season to beat Cameron Ilett and Sam Smith, while Foley won the Thunder women’s first ever award ahead of Jasmyn Hewett and Emma Swanson.
In other news from the night, volunteers as well as retiring players and coaches were all duly recognised. There was also a host of other awards and recognitions given out on Thunder’s night of nights. Get the full rundown here.
And Thunder Head Coach Andrew Hodges was also re-signed for a further two years, meaning he will lead the men’s NT Thunder team to at least the end of the 2010 season. Read the announcement here.
However, it was all eyes on the main man from Central Australia, Ankers who capped off a brilliant NEAFL season by winning NT Thunder’s best and fairest award – the Ilett Medal presented by The Precinct – for the first time, finishing with 141 votes. Some would say it’s deserved recognition for the 67,000 kilometres he travelled this season.
Trailing Ankers by 16 votes in second place on 125 was Ilett, a six-time winner of the award that’s named after he and his brother Jarred.
The Ilett siblings were foundation players, premiership players, both have been captains and Jarred was also CEO from 2012 to 2014.
Defender Smith was third on 114 votes.
Under the Thunder voting system, head coach Andrew Hodges (NEAFL) or Tim Weatherald (VFL W) gave each player a score out of five after each game, and the assistant coaches combined to also give each player a score out of five with the best a player could poll in a match being 10 votes.
Ankers polled 10 votes twice – in Round 7 against the Gold Coast Suns and Round 15 against the Sydney Swans.
Ilett also earned 10 votes twice – in the first two rounds of the season, against the Brisbane Lions and Aspley.
Ankers was a picture of consistency throughout the season, polling nine votes four times, eight on four occasions and seven in five games.
His lowest tally for the season was only six votes on two occasions.
Likewise, the veteran Ilett proved ageless, picking up eight votes in six games and seven in three, but interestingly, no nine votes.
He also failed to poll in one round, Round 17, which he missed due to being suspended for the first time in his glittering senior career.
Ilett’s lowest votes for the season were also six, but he recorded that in six games.
He jumped out to a quick lead with the two perfect scores in Rounds 1 and 2 and by Round 6 he’d already opened up a nine-vote lead over Ankers (34) with Chris Williams, Jarrod Stokes and Braedon McLean equal third on 33.
The race had tightened a little by Round 11 though with Ankers closing the gap to Ilett by five.
The veteran still led, however, with 78 votes to Ankers’ 74 while full forward Ewing and ruckman Jack Monigatti had climbed up into joint third with 57 votes apiece.
Between Rounds 11 and 16 was when Ankers made his move thanks mainly to a perfect 10, a nine and two eights.
That run gave him the advantage over Ilett, whose best during the same time was an eight, a seven and a pair of sixes.
The leaderboard after Round 16 saw Ankers overtaking Ilett to lead with 109 votes to his rival’s 105, with Smith slipping into third place with 84 votes.
Ankers’ strong form continued as the season wound to a close with a nine, a pair of eights and a seven-vote game to ensure his victory.
Ilett’s last four games included that zero for his suspension week, an eight and a pair of sixes.
Smith’s fast finish wasn’t enough to threaten Ankers’ lead but did see him conclude with a nine, an eight, a seven and a six.
Ankers’ win showed the faith coach Andrew Hodges put in him at the start of the season by elevating him to vice-captain wasn’t misplaced and Ilett finishing runner-up vindicated his decision to abandon retirement plans to play another season.
Interestingly, the same three players were at the top of the polling last season as well, but on that occasion, it was Ilett who won with Ankers and Smith finishing joint runners-up.
Ewing once again featured heavily in the polling, claiming another top-four finish (101 votes).
While 2018 debut player and INPEX Rookie of the Year, Monigatti (100 votes) narrowly edged out Joe Anderson (99 votes) who missed four games with injury, and one of Thunder’s favourite sons, Ben Rioli (98 votes) who would’ve relished the opportunity to make a Ben Rioli trademark speech.
In the women’s award, Foley finished on 91 votes, nine ahead of Hewett (82 votes) with Swanson third (78 votes).
Thunder’s historic first match ever in the VFL W against Darebin in Round 1 saw four players awarded perfect 10s for their performances in the big win. Eventual winner Foley, third-placed Swanson, Marijana Rajcic and Chelsea Randall were those to receive the honour.
The next few rounds saw some shuffling on the leaderboard, and it wasn’t until Round 5 that Foley took control.
The determined on-baller trailed defender Chelsea Randall (27) by three votes after four rounds but climbed into the lead by two over Hewett in Round 5.
By Round 6 though, Randall had rejoined Foley at the top of the leaderboard with the skipper on 39 and her defender on 34, but the latter wouldn’t play any more games for the remainder of the season due to overseas travel plans.
By Round 10 Foley had opened up an 11-vote lead over second-placed Hewett, 64 to 53, with Renee Forth in third on 52, but Forth had climbed into second by Round 12, just four votes behind Foley.
Hewett had slumped to fourth by that stage, nine votes off the pace with Swanson in third on 65.
At the same time, Alice Springs-based Jordann Hickey was in fifth spot on 60 votes, showing you don’t have to be a readymade star to match it with the best.
Forth sat out the next two games and a quieter Round 15 saw her slip behind but do enough to hang onto fifth spot overall (71 votes), while Hickey picked up 15 votes in the last three ThunderW games to finish in fourth (75 votes).
It was the strength and consistency of Foley’s season that prevailed though and by Round 14 she was well and truly entrenched in the lead with 85 votes, eight ahead of Hewett on 77 with Swanson third in 73, the same order they’d finish in after the 15 rounds.
Both Hewett and Swanson polled more perfect games than Foley with each earning 10 votes on two occasions, Hewett in Rounds 9 and 14 and Swanson in Rounds 1 and 3.
Foley’s sole 10-vote game was in Round 1, but she polled nine votes on two occasions and eight votes four times.
Hewett attracted nine votes twice, and eight only once while Swanson didn’t have any nine-vote games but earnt eight votes in four games.
At the conclusion of the night, it was Ankers and Foley who reigned supreme and had a toast raised in their honour.
NT Thunder Ilett Medal Top 5 (NEAFL)
Ilett Medallist – Abraham Ankers – 141 votes presented by The Precinct
Runner-Up – Cameron Ilett – 125 votes
3rd place – Sam Smith – 114 votes
4th place – Darren Ewing – 101 votes
5th place – Jack Monigatti – 100 votes
NT ThunderW Club Champion Top 5 (VFL W)
Club Champion – Angela Foley – 91 votes presented by Discovery Darwin
Runner-Up – Jasmyn Hewett – 82 votes
3rd place – Emma Swanson – 78 votes
4th place – Jordann Hickey – 75 votes
5th place – Renee Forth – 71 votes
Other senior team awards
NT Thunder INPEX Rookie of the Year
KIK Digital Community and Media Award
NT Thunder Clubman/Clubwoman of the Year Award presented by Mix 104.9
NT Thunder Leading Goalkicker presented by McDonald’s
Darren Ewing (51 goals)
Jessica Sedunary (15 goals)
NT Thunder Players’ Player presented by Mercure Airport Resort
NT Thunder Most Courageous Player presented by Hutchinson
NT ThunderW Karen Schneider Most Courageous Award presented by Hutchinson
Academy and other club awards
St John Ambulance Tony West Clubperson of the Year Award
Jamie Barry and Mitchell Stennett
Under 18 McLean Medal
Under 18 Women’s Most Valuable Player
Under 18 McCasker Awards
Under 16 McAdam Medal
Under 16 McCasker Award
School Sport NT Under 15 Long Medal
School Sport NT Under 15 Girls Medal